Q and A with Sarah Keyworth

Sarah Keyworth comes to The Soho Theatre this month, with her show Sarah Keyworth: Dark Horse – a story about her life, an important little girl and her battle against every expectation of what being a girl means. We sent some questions over to Sarah this week to find out a little more about her and this show.

What was your journey in to becoming a comedian? And what drew you to comedy in the first place?

I mostly started doing comedy at University. I met a bunch of other students who were doing it and it was a really nice environment to try and fail at being funny over and over again.

Tell us a little about Dark Horse and where the inspiration for it came from…

Dark Horse is about how we raise children, specifically girls, with very rigid expectations. It’s about how I never understood or manage to meet those expectations and about a little girl I have in my life now who is also finding them challenging. It’s also funny. I should stress that.

What do you hope audiences will take away from watching?

I hope they have a good time! And maybe think a little more carefully about why we expect what we expect based on gender… if they haven’t already before!

We have heard a lot over recent years around the difficulties female comedians face, particularly when it comes to the programming of larger events we often see a lack of women’s voices, do you feel any change on this from within the scene, are people becoming more aware?

I think the issue of female representation is relevant is almost every industry at the moment. I do think it’s changing for the better. There are some incredible comedy bookers and promoters who just know good comedians when they see them, regardless of gender.

Who are your favourite LGBT+ voices in comedy?

Zoe Lyons, Jen Brister, Chloe Petts, Joe Sutherland, Shelf, Tig Notaro… I mean the list is endless. We’re very good at comedy us queers.

Following your run at The Soho Theatre, where can we see you next?

I’m taking my show on tour! And writing a new one! I’m at the 99 Club in Leicester Sq every Tuesday night and I post all of my gigs on social media @sarahkcomedy and on my website http://www.sarahkeyworth.co.uk.

Sarah’s show, Dark Horse, will run at the Soho Theatre, 28th Jan – 2nd Feb 2019.  Book now. 

© The LGBTQ Arts Review 2019

Screen Shot 2019-01-24 at 08.39.08.png


Review: The Hidden Pin Up

Presented bt The House of Ghetto and Gemma Parker Art, HOME, Manchester
This performance has now closed

The Hidden Pin Up is a moving and intimate spoken word and dance piece that was showing as part of Push Festival at HOME in Manchester.

The piece was created collaboratively following research around the fetishization of the black female body in pin ups from the mid-20th century and observing the language used and erasure of identity. Taking this initial inspiration, artist Gemma Parker and House of Ghetto teamed up to explore the legacy of racial stereotypes still found in modern life.

These conversations informed the content for The Hidden Pin Up, which is presented through a mixture of dance and spoken word. The piece focuses around a young woman dancing while she is constantly questioned and held under scrutiny: ‘I’m not really into black girls but-’, ‘will you date me?’. The relentless questioning, mixed with expressive dance makes for a political piece that’s impactful and powerful.

At ten minutes long, this piece was a refreshing and challenging experience and well worth a watch if you get a chance. I’d certainly be interested in seeing where it ends up in the future.

© M. Holland 2019

Screen Shot 2019-01-24 at 08.31.31.png

Series Review: Out On Stage

Stand up comedy, especially in the UK is still dominated by heterosexual white men and despite woman and minorities starting to get noticed in the mainstream the balance is still incredibly weighted against anyone who is not a cis white male. The new ‘quota’ system put in place at the BBC meaning that panel shows have to include a certain number of female comics, has caused the industry to stand up and present a more diverse array of presenters and panelists, but even with people like Sandi Toxvig, Alan Carr and Joe Lynette hosting some major shows, there is clearly still a long way to go.

From stateside comes “Out on Stage” a brand new stand up comedy series that focuses solely on LGBTQ+ performers. Hosted by Zach Noe Towers (for whom this has been a passion project to get off the ground) the series is split into six, thirty minute episodes, each with three relatively unknown (at least in the UK) LGBTQ+ comedians. Towers is an LA based stand up and talks openly about the difficulty of being the ‘token gay’ in any line up and so along with Comedy Dynamics and Dekko has curated these season of voices that hopefully will showcases voices that are so often sidelined. He says “What an incredible experience it’s been to bring together such a gorgeously funny group of queer comedians. Each and every person featured in the content has such a unique perspective and I’m thrilled that we’re being given a platform for those hilarious voices to be heard.”

Across the episodes, there is a very eclectic mix of styles which manages to flow and connect due to Towers’ natural charm and ability to cleanse the pallet between each performer. One highlights is Kyle Shire (episode 1) a Chicago based ‘bear’ who is the first person I can remember since Mel Brooks who could draw belly-laughs from Nazi material and who is fighting for feminism by aggressively objectifying straight men.

Another stand out comes in Episode 3. Gloria Bigelow, a black woman with “LLE” or “Low Lesbian Esteem” who rackets through the struggles of being a ‘non obvious lesbian’, the coming out to her mother and the inability to be with white women, in a short but laugh a minute set that could easily have gone on for the full episode.

Comedy is, of course, incredibly subjective but I found the quality to range quite dramatically with clear stand outs along with performers who didn’t manage to get much of a titter from me at all, that said Out on Stage is a fantastic collection of comedy which should cater for a broad taste with this eclectic mix of personality and voice ether you like story led comedy, one liners or just plain in your face.

As much as enjoyed working through the series, deep down I could’t help but feel sad that this kind of narrow field of curation is needed in order to be seen and heard as an LGBTQ+ comic. Hopefully this can draw attention to a need for more gay voices in the genre and push comedy to a place where this kind of series is not needed anymore.

© Harry Richards 2019

Watch the trailer here.

You can access the series via Dekkoo (a subscription channel with a primary target audience of gay men) here.

Screen Shot 2019-01-24 at 08.23.36.png

Review: 6 Conversations

The Glory

The first thing to hit me as I took my seat in a basement in London’s glamorous Haggerston was a wave of nostalgia. I haven’t seen an overhead projector since I was at school watching Mr Jones the physics teacher draw electrical circuits on one, the machine’s whirring fan soundtracking my education.

In 6 Conversations, the projector is used as the primary light source, an unusual but practical design which also allows a succession of words to be projected against the back of the set, headlining the play’s scenes.

Charting a gay man’s journey from adolescence to something approaching adulthood, Sasha Kane’s play is composed of the six conversations of the title: six independent scenes which offer snapshots of the central character Owen.

Kane himself plays Owen, with Daniel Walters taking on all the other roles, and both give solid, committed performances. They are perhaps a little restrained by the small stage area and the set design: with every scene consisting of the two actors sat chatting across a table, there isn’t a great deal of variety over the course of the play.

The conversations we’re presented with take place between Owen and his mother, his father, and his ex-boyfriend (possibly boyfriends, plural – I wasn’t sure). We start with Owen and an ex quarrelling over an STI test, then we meet Owen’s mother, an overbearing woman who’s unapologetic about having had her son sectioned when he was a vulnerable youth.

Next up is Owen’s father. This scene stands out, as Owen is 14 years old here, and Kane invests this youngest incarnation with a bouncy energy that’s immediately relatable – we were all twats in our teens, weren’t we?

The remaining scenes show us another ex-boyfriend scene, then Mum telling Owen that Dad is dead, and finally a conversation with said dead Dad, who seems surprisingly unchanged by this life-ending experience.

Kane’s script captures a certain gay archetype in the needy, demanding Owen, and he’s clearly aware that drama requires conflict, as each of the arguments played out ends with a crescendo of emotion.

It’s not quite clear what 6 Conversations is intended to leave the audience with – perhaps a reminder that family and romantic relationships are difficult to navigate? But Owen is an interesting character to spend time with – engaging and realistically flawed. When the glowing bulb of the projector was finally extinguished, I found myself hoping that Owen’s future would see him grow out of his sense of entitlement, and towards becoming a more rounded and empathetic person.

© N.Myles 2019

This performance has now closed. Follow @TheGloryLondon for future performances.

Screen Shot 2019-01-16 at 08.06.03.png

Interview: Eleanor Perry

A Night with Thick and Tight come to The Sadlers Wells as part of Mime London, an exciting evening which promises laughs, tears and eccentricity, you can catch them there from the 17th-19th January. We caught up with one half of Thick and Tight, Eleanor Perry, to find out more about their work.

Interview by Amie Taylor

AT: To start with, tell us about the history of Thick and Tight and how you came to exist? 

EP: Sure, myself and Daniel Hay-Gordon met at The Rambert School, where we trained together. We were very good friends and were involved in each other’s work there. Then in 2012 I made a short solo about Edith Sitwell, which was for a scratch night; at the time Danny was living with me and we were listening to everything she had every written, and we came to the idea that perhaps we could turn the solo in to a duet with two characters, which we did – and that has become the thing we do with Thick and Tight, we pair up well known people that would never have met and see what comes out of it. 

AT: So what can people expect if they come along to Sadlers Wells in January?

EP: Well it’s a triple bill, with two duets that Danny and I perform, one of them is based on Queen Victoria and Mrs Haversham, it’s this mad, monstrous ballet with these two horrid characters, it’s dark and sad and awful and funny. And the second duet we perform is about Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe and the parallels in their lives, exploring what it is to be an icon, but to have the trauma and troubles to deal with at the same time. And then we have four guest artists in it too, including a moon walking Michael Jackson, amongst other treats. Then between the two duets there is a short solo performance from a wonderful dancer called Judy Cunningham, who directs at Merce Cunningham company. This is based on the lives and work of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, artists who moved to Jersey during the 2nd world war, but did lots sharing propaganda on the island which was occupied by the Germans, and were imprisoned and sentenced to death, but survived because the war ended just in time. 

Although we’re dancers and have a traditional choreographic pratice, we also cross over with cabaret and queer performance world and when we’re not in theatres we can be found performing at the RVT and LGBT+ events and spaces. 

So expect tears and kisses and landmines and drama and humour and eccentricity. 

AT: What inspired this particular piece that’s on at The Sadlers Well?

EP: The two duets were made earlier for separate commissions, and they go together quite well somehow.

AT: And what’s your hope for the future of the piece following this?

EP: We’d love to perform it further.  It’s such a pleasure to be part of London International Mime Festival, and hopefully form there there will be commissions of new work, and we have some ideas for a longer piece too. 

Be sure to catch this fabulous piece while it’s in town.  Book now.

Thick and Tight - QUEEN HAVE AND MISS HAVEN_T © Darren Evans.jpg

Image by Darren Evans

Interview: Stephen Laughton

Stephen Laughton’s previous play, Run, came to our stages a couple of years ago which told the story of a Jewish teenager embarking on his first same sex relationship.  Laughton has returned to our stages this winter with One Jewish Boy – a play about anti-semitism, which in turn has been on the receiving end of a barrage of anti-semitism pushing it in to the national newspapers this November. It’s running at The Old Red Lion Theatre (London) until Jan 5th 2019 and we took this opportunity to catch up with Stephen about this play, what inspired it and why it’s such an important piece.

TW: Accounts of anti-semitism

Interview by Amie Taylor

AT: In your own words, what is this piece about?

SL: It’s set between 2009 and 2018, we start at the end of a relationship between a Jewish man and a bi-racial woman. It charts the relationship from when they first meet in 2009, just after he gets beaten up on Hampstead Heath. But the play largely runs backwards and it looks at how anti-semitism is real in front of them and the growing anti-semitism. It charts what that does to their relationship. The bi-racial woman is light skinned, so both of them are white-passing and have white privilege in their interactions with the outside world, but are still surrounded by racism, which becomes like a pressure cooker for them. 

AT: What inspired you to write this piece?

SL: It was a few things all coming together. I’ve been feeling anti-semitism in a really tangible way, small ways, but in a way that I haven’t seen it previously.  Especially over the past four years. I touched on it in my previous play. We had the war in 2014, and that was where Run came from and things that had happened in that summer.  For example, I was outside the BBC building and there were pro-Palestine demonstrations happening, and I came out and got given a flyer by a lad that was on the pro-Palestinian demonstration and he saw my tattoo and said ‘nice tattoo’ and I said ‘Thanks, it’s Hebrew -‘ and I didn’t get any further before he grabbed my wrist and shouted ‘We’ve got a Jew!’ and it was the first time I felt this instant shame, fury and fear.  I was annoyed at the idiocy of the comment.  And I think that’s one of the things that has continued is that conflation with Judaism and Israel.

I had another experience when I met a former MP from the Labour party, and we got on to talking about my play and we got on to anti-semitism in the labour party and Israel and the conflation between Judaism and Israel. And he told me that Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t an anti-semite, I explained that some of the things he does are slightly problematic and that I feel quite let down by him, for instance releasing a broadcast in which he said he wasn’t anti-semitic on a Friday night, presumably communications managers must have told him if you’re going to give a broadcast to the Jewish community, don’t do it on a Friday night because it’s Shabbat, the fact that he didn’t take that advice was a really stupid move. 

So it’s been inspired by the anti-semitism, especially around the Israel question, as well as things that have happened to me, conversations that I’m seeing. I have these conversations with other Jewish theatre-makers, how we’re often talking about other -isms and -phobias, but never anti-semitism. 

Then I was asked to write a short piece as part of a night, and I’d been wanting to test out and idea I’d had to write a play about anti-semitism, to take these really big scenes and put them in domestic situations.  I also wanted to make them funny as well. Katy from the Old Red Lion came to watch that evening, and wanted to have a further conversation about this piece and writing it in to a full length play. 

AT: What audience are you targeting for this and what are you hoping they will away?

SL: That’s a really interesting question, because I never write with a particular audience in mind, but I got told earlier this year that my audience is queer and Jewish, and in many ways that’s a great audience to have, but it was told to me in a really detrimental way. 

I normally wouldn’t worry about this, though of course as a playwright you’d hope as you develop your career you’d be broadening your audience. So originally in this piece the characters were queer, it was originally two women, but as the piece developed it became clear that the violence wouldn’t work in that setting. A lot of anti-semitic violence towards women is sexual, and that wasn’t a place I wanted to go – so I re-wrote the part as male.  And in the writing it became clear that they should have a child, and I wanted that child to be biologically both of theirs. So the story needed to be centred around a heterosexual couple. 

So I hope it will attract a broader audience due to this broader representation, and I’m hoping to reach an audience that doesn’t necessarily know about anti-semitism. It’s also need it to reach an audience in my generation – you know, under 40s, left-wing, urbanites, who might inadvertently mix up jews and Israel and the politics there. I also hope to change the language around Israel. I wanted to reach that audience to change the language that we use when talking about anti-semitism and jews and Israel. When we talk politics in this country, when we talk about political parties and we blame a person – a political, whether it’s Theresa May, or Corbyn or Jeremy Hunt, but when we talk about Israel, we don’t do that, we talk about Israel, holding the entire country to account, when only about 32% of the voting population in that country voted in their Prime Minister and that policy – yet Jews across the world are being held accountable. So I wanted to really look at that and change that dialogue. 

Book Now to see One Jewish Boy, running at The Old Red Lion Theatre until Jan 5th 2019.

Screen Shot 2019-01-02 at 15.22.00.png

Review: The Forest of Forgotten Discos

Contact Theatre (Manchester) and Jackie Hagan
This closed at Hope Mill Theatre on the 23rd Dec

Red is nine, and she isn’t scared of anything – and she’s run away from home and into the forest. There she meets Alexa – a virtual assistant built entirely from old technology, who introduces her to some bears: Bear Hug, Bear Minimum and Bear Grills – who each have their own reason for being stranded in the forest. For years they’ve all had discos together, but this year they’ve forgotten how to throw them, and can’t seem to remember why.

The Forest of Forgotten Discos is a totally unique Christmas show: it’s inclusive, it’s a whole lot of fun – and whether you’re a child or an adult you’re definitely in for a great time. From the moment the doors open and Alexa starts scanning the audience, there’s a feeling of togetherness and enjoyment that lasts all the way through (and some pretty great bear-themed dance moves)

There’s a character for everyone, and the actors bring them all to life with fun and dynamic performances that don’t leave anyone out: even as adults sat at back back we were invited to participate and never forgotten about. The story is powerful – it’s not a stereotypical Christmas story about a nuclear family – it’s characters who love one another and have built family together and found a home together – and that felt really special.

It’s also worth mentioning that the set design is absolutely stunning: giant cans of Heinz beans and a forest made of ramshackle pots and pans bring you straight into the world of the play. Furthermore, the costume design was brilliant, particularly the bear costumes, which felt really transportive.

Every performance of The Forest of Forgotten Discos is completely accessible, with sign language integrated into the actor’s performances. It was really cool to see it as a completely natural part of the show and a definite highlight.

The Forest of Forgotten Discos is a really enjoyable show. It’s clever, funny and full of energy – and any show that involves a disco is worth a watch!

© Megan Holland 2018

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 18.14.27.png